What an Olympic medal run could mean for Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins won gold at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, was a member of the 2012 Select Team that trained against the U.S. Olympic Team and his first USA Basketball event was as a high-schooler in the 2007 Youth Development Festival.

Anthony Crawford

The 2016 USA Olympic men’s basketball team was announced earlier this week, and DeMarcus Cousins was the lone former UK player on the roster.

Cousins was thankful, seeing his second stint with the national team as a real honor, but the opportunity to play with some of the best players the country has to offer can also be a big boost to his morale and overall future in basketball.

“Getting to wear USA across your chest,” Cousins said in a press release from USA Basketball. “That’s probably one of the biggest things ever. I get to represent my whole entire country. I’m grateful for that opportunity and I’ll take advantage of it.”

Cousins is coming off back-to-back All-NBA Second Team honors, but his success on the court was once again drowned out by the disorganization and overall chaos that surrounds the front office of the Sacramento Kings.

Disputes between Cousins and then head coach George Karl were on display heavily throughout the season and the Kings extended their playoff drought to ten years.

The latest squander by the team happened on draft night when the team took two more big men in the first round in Greek center Georgios Papagiannis and UK’s very own Skal Labissiere. The two join an already crowded frontcourt with Cousins, another ex-Cat Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. Between either those draft decisions or an apparent hot sculpting class, Cousins had this to say on Twitter: 

Many would agree with Cousins response but with the draft behind them, him and the Kings can only hope to get better. The Kings had already made strides with the hiring of a new coach, Dave Joerger, and Cousins can use this stint with the national team to help himself.

Just looking at the aftermath of his first time with this team, the Kings have to be optimistic that the organization might finally turn it around.

In the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Cousins thrived being surrounded by premier players from the league and playing for a program with a winning history. He averaged 9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals and shot a team high 70.2 percent (33-47) from the field in his role coming off the bench.

Cousins then turned that experience into helping the Kings start the season at 9-6 and look like a team that could compete for a playoff spot in the West. But Cousins was forced to miss several games after being diagnosed with viral meningitis, and the team suffered losses in seven of its next nine games. The skid caused team officials to act some what prematurely in firing head coach Mike Malone, one of the few coaches that had success with dealing with Cousins at times over-the-top personality.

The team never recovered once Cousins returned and produced another disappointing season, but all signs point to the USA Basketball experience from Cousins playing a big part in the promising start to the 2014-15 season.

Cousins will likely play a bigger role this go-around with the national team in the Olympics. He is arguably the best and most skilled big man on the roster and could end up starting if USA Olympic men’s basketball team head coach Mike Krzyzewski chooses to roll out a traditional lineup.

While few worry about the team’s ability to bring home the gold medal, playing with other great players and winners will do nothing but help Cousins. The Kings roster still seems a bit uneven, but with free agency just around the corner maybe the front office can make a couple good decisions for a change and produce a roster that can support Cousins and actually resemble a contender.

“I feel like every player always comes back better [from the Olympics],” Cousins said. “It’s a great environment, great learning environment. You get to play for a legendary coach. So just being around it just increases everybody’s abilities and you just come back a better player.”

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be held Aug. 5 – 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The men’s basketball preliminary rounds will be held Aug. 6 – 15. The quarterfinals and proceeding rounds will run Aug. 17 – 21.